One of the questions that I get most often from friends is whether or not I think they should do a juice cleanse. I've done a number of them — including Blueprint, IZO, and Ritual Cleanse — and for the most part, I think people are better off eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean protein (like salmon and chicken). Cleanses tend to be very calorie restrictive and, from my experience, they leave you feeling lethargic (think 9PM bedtime) and cranky, because you end up hungry, and mostly ineffective, because they do very little in the way of changing eating habits in the long run.
These points were recently reiterated in A.J. Jacobs new book "Drop Dead Healthy" when the author went on a three day, six juice-a-day cleanse for a chapter titled "The Bladder: The Quest to Find Out What to Drink," only to end up being what he calls a grumpy underfed New Yorker. That isn't always the case, however. As a counterpoint, Rich Roll went from being an overweight middle age former alcoholic to a vegan triathlete and the first of two people to complete the EPIC5 (five Ironman triathlons on five Hawaiian islands in under a week) — and it all started with a week-long juice cleanse. For individuals with poor eating habits looking to kickstart a healthier regimen, there's a possibility that a juice cleanse could do the trick, but it's equally likely said person will end up falling face first into a pile of chocolate. However, what about the people who already eat cleanly and exercise regularly? Can those people benefit from a juice cleanse? This was my problem after a few stressful weeks.
Down and out, I found myself in desperate need of a mental detox. I usually run to clear my head, but my knees were already maxed out from daily pounding. Knowing that fasting is part of a number of Jewish holidays, I turned to my rabbi and asked him about the origin of the custom. "Generally speaking," he said, "a Tzom [hebrew for fast] is meant to press or squeeze the soul by refraining from material consumption so that it can thirst and yearn for a deeper, more profound sustenance — that is, a spiritual feast. Yom Kippur, the one fast-day recorded in the Written Torah which sets the precedent for all the other fast-days, is actually not a sad day of mourning, but a joyous day of celebration, analogous to a wedding day, when we refrain from focusing on the bodily limitations and needs and focus instead on the aspiring wings of the soul. In more poetic terms: Instead of consuming foods, on Yom Kippur, we ourselves become delectable." Wow. Powerful words! Juice cleanse it is! Off I went and ventured out and tried Organic Avenue's Love Deep three day cleanse.
Favored by health-conscious celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, the rapidly growing brand has nearly a dozen locations including a new one in Chelsea (216 Eighth Avenue, NYC) that opened just this month. Unlike many other popular juice cleanses, Organic Avenue's are organic (obviously) and not totally loaded with sugar. They also send daily emails detailing the ingredients in each of their juices and explaining why they're beneficial, along with passing along positive affirmations. My hope was that I would end up, as the rabbi said, focusing "on the aspiring wings of the soul" and somehow find myself clear-headed and enlightened. For better or worse, after an intense cardio session on day one, liberated soul or not, I came to the conclusion that there would be no way for me to subsist on just six juices a day and still keep up my workout and work schedule.
In the end, I spent three days eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and salmon, and drinking the juices in between meals (succumbing to the temptation of chocolate only one of those days). Much to my surprise, the juices actually did help clear my head even though they were combined with whole foods. They were also a lot easier for me to digest and tasted amazing. Again, this is coming from someone who enjoys low sugar, very "green" juices, but from a nutritional and taste standpoint, Organic Avenue is leaps ahead of the likes of Blueprint. I ended the three days refreshed and rejuvenated and, better yet, it didn't come with an ounce of deprivation.
Images via Organic Avenue